The best way to get around the Eternal City is, quite simply, your own two feet. The historic center is relatively small, and many attractions are within easy walking distance of our location and each other. For example, you can walk from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum. From the Spanish Steps Apartment, exit the door and turn left; at Via del Corso, turn left; walk toward the Wedding Cake (officially, the Vittorio Emmanuele II monument); at the Wedding Cake, bear left on Via dei Fori Imperiali, and walk toward the Colosseum. At a comfortable, leisurely pace, it’s perhaps 30 minutes from the apartment to the Colosseum. And along the way, you see the magic of Rome with every step.
There’s another reason to walk: getting lost. Yes, I am 100% advocating getting lost. After growing up here, I still get lost, and every time I discover something worth discovering. Like the time wandering on Via del Pie di Marmo, which translates as marble foot street, I found a gigantic marble foot in a sandal… on marble foot street. Go figure. So, if you wander, I guarantee that you will (almost) always find something wonderful, beautiful, tasty, or at least curious.
But feet can only take you so far, for so long. Fortunately for us, the Metro is conveniently located right by the Spanish Steps. Go just past the Spanish Steps, then go down the little alley (look for the red “M” sign). The subway does not go everywhere — it won’t get you to Piazza Navona or Trastevere, for example — but it will get you quickly and fairly easily to the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, Testaccio, EUR, and Termini station if you are heading to pick up a train. There are, at this time, only two metro lines, the creatively-named lines A and B. Line C is under development, but this being Rome, every shovel of dirt turns up an archaeological site, so don’t hold your breath waiting for its completion. But what we do have is efficient and cheap — 1.5 euros per trip, with electronic vending machines at the metro stations (the same tickets can be used on buses and trams; just make sure to stamp your ticket in the little machines on the buses or trams as inspectors will fine you for not activating your ticket!).
Next up are the bus routes, including the little electric bus that circulate through the historic center. I remember years ago when full size buses noisily rattled by; the little electric ones are a terrific solution.
These little buses will take you to places Metro does not go, such as Villa Borghese, Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, and St. John Lateran. Trams also run in certain areas of Rome. For example, a tram runs north of Piazza del Popolo to take you to MAXXI, the modern art museum, and a tram runs from Largo Argentina to Trastvere. Buses also radiate out of the historic area, such as the 80 (or, 80B) bus to the MACRO museum (one of our favorites).
Finally, there are taxis. Unlike in the states, one does not normally hail a taxi, but must either find a taxi stand or call for a cab. We have taxis stands down the street at Piazza San Silvestro,
as well as at Piazza Mignanelli and at Piazza di Spagna. Taxis are reasonably priced, a few even take credit cards but in general, make sure to have small bills. It may also be helpful to have a specific address written down as some drivers don’t speak any English — although those who do are often very vocal about giving you their opinion about Italian politics, American politics, and many other hot topics!
UPDATE 2016: The mini electric bus has stopping running on Via della Mercede. Plans are underway to re-activate and expand the electric bus routes.